I spent the winter break reading the revised edition of Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness. Author Jon Kabat-Zinn has a number of books that explain mindfulness. This one is my favorite because it is so practical.
I began a daily practice of meditation in Summer 2014. At first I used the "Smiling Mind" App on my iPad to train myself. They have a variety of short 4-10 minute guided meditations. I recommend it as a way to get started.
Mindfulness: Mental Noting or Just Noting
"Labeling" your thoughts when you notice that you are thinking or feeling or noticing something.
Label the thought what it is: thinking, wandering, worrying, planning, doubting, judging, fantasizing, and daydreaming.
Label the emotion: anxiety, fear, impatience, irritation, etc.
Just notice and then, bring your attention back to your breath.
If you are distracted by a sound, label those as well: traffic, dog barking, laughter, heating unit, phone, birds, etc.
"Thinking"…come back to the breath…"Planning"…come back to the breath…
“Feeling”…"Anxiety"… gently come back to the breath…
"Noise"…come back to the breath.
Mental or just noting identifies where are thoughts have gone and then come back to the present moment. After the mindfulness meditation you can think about what you noted and look for patterns.
This article the-art-of-self-massage/ has many great suggestions for taking care of self with
Take a vacation
Getting away helps us to restore our batteries. It takes us away from our homes that are often filled with seemingly endless chores and responsibilities. I stay away from my school all summer. I need the 2+ months off to fully recharge myself.
As counselors, it is important to take time for ourselves. I highly recommend lowering the lights at night and burning a candle with a scent like lavender for the last half hour before you need to go to sleep. You can also use
lavendar oil on a cotton ball inside your pillow case to help you relax. Light is the enemy of sleep. Keeping a regular sleep pattern even on weekends and vacations results in the best quality sleep. If we are not getting adequate sleep or stress will increase along with many other unhealthy effects.
School Year Beginning to End
How can school counselors start the year refreshed and keep from getting totally worn out by June?
As the flight attendants say us put your own oxygen mask on first! As a professional helper we tend to take care of the needs of people all around us and ignore our own. Remind yourself that you will be a much more effective counselor if you get adequate sleep, keep yourself hydrated, take time to eat a healthy breakfast and lunch, take a brief brain break when you need it, and go home at a reasonable time. Don't bring home a big bag of work nightly. It won't get done and you will start your next day feeling guilty as you lug it back to the office. Do take a few minutes before leaving to clean up your work space so it looks inviting when you walk back in the next school day. Find someone at your school (or if necessary by phone or email) that you can talk to when you need support. Build in time to do something you enjoy each day. Consider ending your day counting your blessings or writing in a gratitude journal. Finally, breathe! When you find yourself getting overwhelmed, stressed, or panicky, take a few minutes to do some of the belly breathing you teach your students. If you take care of
yourself you will be in a much better position to help others.
New Years Resolutions
I have 5 resolutions for 2013.
Learn something new each week. This could be a new pattern for my
Enjoy life more. I love to be outside. If I stay too late at school it is dark when I get home. I know I function better and am less wound up when I make time to be
Connect with colleagues. This could be actually eating in the lounge instead of in front of my computer or calling one of the other elementary counselors in my district to share ideas once or twice a month.
Follow a consistent sleep schedule. The quality of sleep is better if we go to bed and get up at approximately the same time each day. The holidays made for some late
Appreciate today. We can't change the past or
Cycling, Walking, Yoga, Pilates, Weight Lifting…
Even if you are not athletic, competitive, or have poor eye hand coordination, you still need regular exercise daily. I prefer to exercise outdoors because being in nature is
restorative. But our bodies need a balance, and yoga, Pilates, and
weight lifting each have their own benefits.
If you are a dancer and love music “Zumba” still is very popular. Counselors need a physical outlet, so find a
few you enjoy and just do it!
Take up a new hobby
I am taking up knitting simple projects, like this scarf I just finished. I used to knit a little as a
I know I have recently posted about the tech tools that I enjoy. Technology is a terrific
Ethical Mandate: Responsibilities to Self
Professional school counselors monitor emotional and physical health and practice wellness to ensure optimal effectiveness. Seek physical or mental health referrals when needed to ensure competence at all times (ASCA, 2010). Self-care is an ethical mandate not a choice for members of our profession. It is impossible to take care of others if we don't model taking care of ourselves. I am taking time this fall to enjoy my St. Louis Cardinals
A Smile File
A “Smile File” is a collection of letters, emails, or cards from past or current staff, students, and parents that tell you how great you are and what a difference you made in their lives. They may also thank you for a specific
My favorite self-care activity is gardening. I also try to spend time in my garden enjoying the beautiful results of my labor. This is my garden relaxing spot with the great chair my husband made. Counselors need a passion other than their job. I hope all counselors spend time recharging themselves doing something they enjoy!
Counselors are great at informing clients what is needed to live a balanced and healthy